For students who study abroad, jet lag is often the least of their difficulties adjusting to life back in the US. How do you begin to process everything you’ve experienced? What do you do with those memories?
The OU Writing Center offers digital storytelling workshops for students returning from overseas. Using their own words and images, they create a digital visual narrative about their experiences.
Rachel Jackson, community project director for the OU Writing Center, works with students in these workshops. She said the projects are “really beautiful stories” that speak to the influence study abroad has on students.
In coordination with the College of International Studies, the writing center works with the freshman Global Engagements Class, offered in the University College. In four visits throughout the semester, these students focus on experiences that have made them want to study overseas.
Faculty can also nominate students who have already studied abroad to participate in one of the center’s three-day workshops. These students are encouraged to share stories about their experiences, particularly moments of notable change or influence.
Working directly with students, Jackson and other writing center staff help them develop an idea for their narrative. Students then write, revise, and finally record their stories. These recordings become the voiceover narration of their videos, which are made up from students’ own pictures and videos taken while abroad.
According to Jackson, students really value the opportunity to reflect on their experience. She said this makes it easier to share their memories with others.
Jackson also said that the CIS values the stories created by students. The final projects highlight students’ experiences and achievements, as well as showcase what OU is doing for students’ opportunities to study abroad.
As for Jackson herself, she loves being in a position to listen to students’ stories and see their pictures and final products. It’s reawakened her wanderlust and desire to travel. She said she “[feels her] spirit soar with students” through their freedom and expanse of thinking.
For students who have studied overseas or are considering it, Jackson encourages them to sign up for one of the writing center’s workshops.
Here’s her advice for those students:
- Take pictures and videos horizontally. They’re much easier to watch and edit and give a wider range of focus.
- Try taking photos from different angles. “It can be a lot of fun to juxtapose,” she said. It also symbolizes the multiple perspectives students gain through studying abroad.
- Pay close attention to different textures, patterns, and details. These images can provide rich sensory information.
- Be aware of proximity when taking pictures of people and be sure to have permission for close-ups.
For more information about this program and to see some videos other students have produced, visit their website at http://www.ou.edu/content/writingcenter/digital_storytelling.html.